9 min read

(For more resources on Adobe Flash, see here.)

Before we begin programming, there are two simple steps required to get everything ready for some amazing 3D graphics demos. Step 1 is to obtain the Flash 11 plugin and the Stage3D API. Step 2 is to create a template as3 project and test that it compiles to create a working Flash SWF file.

Once you have followed these two steps, you will have properly “equipped” yourself. You will truly be ready for the battle. You will have ensured that your tool-chain is set up properly. You will be ready to start programming a 3D game.

Step 1: Downloading Flash 11 (Molehill) from Adobe

Depending on the work environment you are using, setting things up will be slightly different. The basic steps are the same regardless of which tool you are using but in some cases, you will need to copy files to a particular folder and set a few program options to get everything running smoothly.

If you are using tools that came out before Flash 11 went live, you will need to download some files from Adobe which instruct your tools how to handle the new Stage3D functions. The directions to do so are outlined below in Step 1.

In the near future, of course, Flash will be upgraded to include Stage3D. If you are using CS5.5 or another new tool that is compatible with the Flash 11 plugin, you may not need to perform the steps below. If this is the case, then simply skip to Step 2.

Assuming that your development tool-chain does not yet come with Stage3D built in, you will need to gather a few things before we can start programming. Let’s assemble all the equipment we need in order to embark on this grand adventure, shall we?

Time for action – getting the plugin

It is very useful to be running the debug version of Flash 11, so that your trace statements and error messages are displayed during development. Download Flash 11 (content debugger) for your web browser of choice.

At the time of writing, Flash 11 is in beta and you can get it from the following URL:

http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/flashplayer11.html

Naturally, you will eventually be able to obtain it from the regular Flash download page:

http://www.adobe.com/support/flashplayer/downloads.html

On this page, you will be able to install either the Active-X (IE) version or the Plugin (Firefox, and so on) version of the Flash player. This page also has links to an uninstaller if you wish to go back to the old version of Flash, so feel free to have some fun and don’t worry about the consequences for now.

Finally, if you want to use Chrome for debugging, you need to install the plugin version and then turn off the built-in version of Flash by typing about:plugins in your Chrome address bar and clicking on Disable on the old Flash plugin, so that the new one you just downloaded will run.

We will make sure that you installed the proper version of Flash before we continue.

To test that your browser of choice has the Stage3D-capable incubator build of the Flash plugin installed, simply right-click on any Flash content and ensure that the bottom of the pop-up menu lists Version 11,0,1,60 or greater, as shown in the following screenshot. If you don’t see a version number in the menu, you are running the old Flash 10 plugin.

Additionally, in some browsers, the 3D acceleration is not turned on by default. In most cases, this option will already be checked. However, just to make sure that you get the best frame rate, right-click on the Flash file and go to options, and then enable hardware acceleration, as shown in the following screenshot:

You can read more about how to set up Flash 11 at the following URL:

http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flashplatformruntimes/flashplayer11/

Time for action – getting the Flash 11 profile for CS5

Now that you have the Stage3D-capable Flash plugin installed, you need to get Stage3D working in your development tools. If you are using a tool that came out after this book was written that includes built-in support for Flash 11, you don’t need to do anything—skip to Step 2.

If you are going to use Flash IDE to compile your source code and you are using Flash CS5, then you need to download a special .XML file that instructs it how to handle the newer Stage3D functionality. The file can be downloaded from the following URL:

http://download.macromedia.com/pub/labs/flashplatformruntimes/incubator/flashplayer_inc_flashprofile_022711.zip

If the preceding link no longer works, do not worry. The files you need are included in the source code that accompanies this book. Once you have obtained and unzipped this file, you need to copy some files into your CS5 installation.

  • FlashPlayer11.xml goes in:
     Adobe Flash CS5CommonConfigurationPlayers
  • playerglobal.swc goes in:
     Adobe Flash CS5CommonConfigurationActionScript 3.0FP11

Restart Flash Professional after that and then select ‘Flash Player 11’ in the publish settings. It will publish to a SWF13 file.

As you are not using Flex to compile, you can skip all of the following sections regarding Flex. Simple as it can be!

Time for action – upgrading Flex

If you are going to use pure AS3 (by using FlashDevelop or Flash Builder), or even basic Flex without any IDE, then you need to compile your source code with a newer version of Flex that can handle Stage3D.

At the time of writing, the best version to use is build 19786. You can download it from the following URL:

http://opensource.adobe.com/wiki/display/flexsdk/Download+Flex+Hero

Remember to change your IDE’s compilation settings to use the new version of Flex you just downloaded.

For example, if you are using Flash Builder as part of the Abode Flex SDK, create a new ActionScript project: File | New | ActionScript project. Open the project Properties panel (right-click and select Properties). Select ActionScript Compiler from the list on the left. Use the Configure Flex SDK’s option in the upper-right hand corner to point the project to Flex build 19786 and then click on OK.

Alternately, if you are using FlashDevelop, you need to instruct it to use this new version of Flex by going into Tools | Program Settings | AS3 Context | Flex SDK Location and browsing to your new Flex installation folder.

Time for action – upgrading the Flex playerglobal.swc

If you use FlashDevelop, Flash Builder, or another tool such as FDT, all ActionScript compiling is done by Flex. In order to instruct Flex about the Stage3D-specific code, you need a small file that contains definitions of all the new AS3 that is available to you.

It will eventually come with the latest version of these tools and you won’t need to manually install it as described in the following section. During the Flash 11 beta period, you can download the Stage3D-enabled playerglobal.swc file from the following URL:

http://download.macromedia.com/pub/labs/flashplatformruntimes/flashplayer11/flashplayer11_b1_playerglobal_071311.swc

Rename this file to playerglobal.swc and place it into an appropriate folder. Instruct your compiler to include it in your project. For example, you may wish to copy it to your Flex installation folder, in the flex/frameworks/libs/player/11 folder.

In some code editors, there is no option to target Flash 11 (yet). By the time you read this book, upgrades may have enabled it. However, at the time of writing, the only way to get FlashDevelop to use the SWC is to copy it over the top of the one in the flex/frameworks/libs/player/10.1 folder and target this new “fake” Flash 10.1 version.

Once you have unzipped Flex to your preferred location and copied playerglobal.swc to the preceding folder, fire up your code editor. Target Flash 11 in your IDE—or whatever version number that is associated with the folder, which you used as the location for playerglobal.swc. Be sure that your IDE will compile this particular SWC along with your source code.

In order to do so in Flash Builder, for example, simply select “Flash Player 11” in the Publish Settings. If you use FlashDevelop, then open a new project and go into the Project—>Properties—>Output Platform Target drop-down list.

Time for action – using SWF Version 13 when compiling in Flex

Finally, Stage3D is considered part of the future “Version 13” of Flash and therefore, you need to set your compiler options to compile for this version. You will need to target SWF Version 13 by passing in an extra compiler argument to the Flex compiler: -swf-version=13.

  1. If you are using Adobe Flash CS5, then you already copied an XML file which has all the changes, as outlined below and this is done automatically for you.
  2. If you are using Flex on the command line, then simply add the preceding setting to your compilation build script command-line parameters.
  3. If you are using Flash Builder to compile Flex, open the project Properties panel (right-click and choose Properties). Select ActionScript Compiler from the list on the left. Add to the Additional compiler arguments input: -swf-version=13. This ensures the outputted SWF targets SWF Version 13. If you compile on the command line and not in Flash Builder, then you need to add the same compiler argument.
  4. If you are using FlashDevelop, then click on Project | Properties | Compiler Options | Additional Compiler Options, and add -swf-version=13 in this field.

Time for action – updating your template HTML file

You probably already have a basic HTML template for including Flash SWF files in your web pages. You need to make one tiny change to enable hardware 3D.

Flash will not use hardware 3D acceleration if you don’t update your HTML file to instruct it to do so. All you need to do is to always remember to set wmode=direct in your HTML parameters.

For example, if you use JavaScript to inject Flash into your HTML (such as SWFObject.js), then just remember to add this parameter in your source. Alternately, if you include SWFs using basic HTML object and embed tags, your HTML will look similar to the following:

The only really important parameter is wmode=direct (and the name of your swf file)— everything else about how you put Flash into your HTML pages remains the same.

In the future, if you are running 3D demos and the frame rate seems really choppy, you might not be using hardware 3D acceleration. Be sure to view-source of the HTML file that contains your SWF and check that all mentions of the wmode parameter are set to direct.

 

Stage3D is now set up!

That is it! You have officially gone to the weapons store and equipped yourself with everything you require to explore the depths of Flash 11 3D graphics. That was the hard part. Now we can dive in and get to some coding, which turns out to be the easy part.


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